A joyful heart makes for good health; Despondency dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 (The Israel Bible™)
For many diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the news is a horrible shock. The disease is a debilitating one that can cause permanent deterioration of the nerves. Vision loss, inability to walk, slurred speech and fatigue are just some of the symptoms people with the disease contend with.
In many ways, patients feel trapped in a body that no longer feels like their own.
And, while there is no cure, consistent treatments can help with the recovery process, slow the spread of the disease and manage symptoms.
Fortunately, there are two unique Colel Chabad facilities in Israel, which seek to do just that.
The MS centers located in Migdal HaEmek and Jerusalem provide patients with the cutting-edge treatments they need on a daily basis, 24/7.
For the past 15 years, Colel Chabad’s Grabski Rehabilitation Foundation provides treatment and a nurturing environment from those suffering from not only MS but cerebral palsy and other debilitating diseases.
“There is no other institution like this,” Rabbi Shmuel Lipsker of Colel Chabad declared.
In Migdal HaEmek, the patient roster is a microcosm of the diversity within Israel’s north. In Jerusalem, many young adults are residents in this new facility which opened last year.
“They never really felt comfortable anywhere,” Rabbi Lipsker explained. Thanks to Colel Chabad though, they are able to interact with others, get quality treatment and feel like they’re part of a community.
Patients are not seen as mere patients but residents and under Colel Chabad’s care, make incredible progress.
Lipsker speaks of patients who, through virtual reality technology, are able to play music even through the simple movement of their eyelids. “These residents, some who can barely move a limb, learn to play music with their eyes,” Lipsker marveled.
This kind of innovative treatment, offered in the Gravsky Multiple Sclerosis Center Migdal HaEmek location, was the first of its kind in Israel and sets it apart from other rehabilitative institutions in the country.
The state of the art music room has eight stations. There, bongo drums, guitars and a keyboard are provided for those who are able to play them. For those who can’t, they rely on an app that controls motion centers. With that, a mere wave of an arm can elicit the sound of strumming guitar. With slight movements, music is created.
In addition to helping residents feel like they’ve created something and, temporarily at least, forget about their illness, these kind of small movements are actually also incredibly useful rehabilitative exercises which can help stymie the aggressive nature of MS.
As for the caring staff, they don’t wear a uniform. By donning plainclothes, they blend in the environment helping to create an organic relationship between patient and caretaker.
In Jerusalem, the center’s location can’t be beaten. Due to its close proximity to the city center and Mahane Yehuda Market, many young adults in their 20s have flocked to the facility for its rehabilitative treatment.
Patients suffering from ALS or even severe accidental injuries, come to the Finger House in Jerusalem.
“Our goal is to improve the quality of their life every single day. When people are physically disabled, you can’t put them in one category,” Chaim Kaplan, who works at the Finger House’s administrative office, explained. “Each person has an individualized rehab program. We want them to be as self-sufficient as possible.”
Of the many treatments provided at the facilities, some of them include speech therapy, physiotherapy, nutrition, and even therapy through honing in on their artistic skills.
While the end-goal is to transfer patients to semi-independent living, for many that are not attainable. Thus, the majority of the patients stay at the facilities indefinitely.
While the government subsidizes much of the facilities, the two structures were made possible through Colel Chabad donations.
It is facilities such as these that restore hope in patients who thought they had none.
“Mentally, they’re totally with you. They dream they hope, and they have their own unique talents. You get to know their soul,” Kaplan said.
Written in cooperation with Colel Chabad.
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